IAMC Weekly News Roundup - April 8th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 8th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Godhra mosque opens doors to Hindus for a day (Apr 8, 2013, Times of India)

The Muslim dominated area ofPolanBazar in Godhra is considered the ground zeroof the 2002 riots. But on Sunday, a mosque here built a unique bridge across the communal divide by opening its doors to people, mostly Hindus. Hundreds of parents had escorted their children from far-off places to the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) centre at Iqbal High School in Polan Bazar not far from the Sheikh Majhawar Masjid. They had a tough time standing under the scorching sun, waiting for the exam to finish. But, help came from an unexpected quarter. Sayeed Meetha, maulvi of the mosque, welcomed them in. Not only did the parents get much-needed rest but the mosque staff also served them refreshments.

“The parents had come from far-off places to help their kids realize their dreams. I saw them looking around for water and a place to rest and decided to open the mosque for them. Humanity is the most important religion. Nothing is more sacred than helping others,” Meetha told TOI. The mosque is located on the Sheikh Majhawar graveyard, which is believed to be one of the biggest in Asia. Hundreds of parents from Surat, Valsad, Bharuch and Dahod flocked to the five exam centres in Godhra for JEE.

“Usually only men are allowed inside the mosque and that too after they wash themselves. But I approached the maulvi with request to allow women and children inside and he agreed,” said Farooq Ahmed Kesri, 50, who sponsored water and snacks. “Those waiting in heat were not Muslims, Hindus or Christians. They were all parents of aspiring engineers.” Chetna Joshi, a housewife from Lunavada, who came with her son, said, “It was a touching gesture from the mosque’s caretakers as it would have been very difficult for women and children to spend hours on the road in such heat.”


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Dipda Darwaja massacre: SIT moves HC against acquittals (Apr 5, 2013, Indian Express)

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has moved the Gujarat High Court appealing against the acquittal of 61 persons in the 2002 Dipda Darwaja massacre case and against the murder charge being dropped against 22 persons in the case. A special trial court had, in July last year, acquitted 61 persons in the case and convicted 21 persons under attempt to murder charge and one under the charge of dereliction of duty.

Special public prosecutor in the case in the HC, Manisha Lavkumar, confirmed that the SIT has filed the appeals but that the appeals have not come up on board for hearing. According to the prosecutor, they have moved an appeal against total acquittal of 61 persons in the case. She added that the SIT has also moved appeal against the acquittal of 22 persons from the case who were otherwise convicted under attempt to murder and dereliction of duty charge.

Twenty one persons were convicted in the case under the attempt to murder charge and were condemned to life imprisonment by the special court. Total 11 persons were killed in the massacre reported from the Visnagar town of Mehsana district of north Gujarat on February 28, 2002.



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Don’t want Modi to do in India what he did in 2002: Tewari (Apr 5, 2013, Hindustan Times)

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi should not do in the “rest of India what he did in 2002”, union minister Manish Tewari said on Friday in a reference to the sectarian violence in the state. The information and broadcasting minister said he “often worries at the statement of the Gujarat chief minister” – the BJP leader had said in Gandhinagar on Thursday that he had repaid the debt of Gujarat and was now being asked by people to repay India’s debt, leaving many to speculate that he was eyeing the prime minister’s post.

“As someone who believes in the idea of India and the plurality of the Indian ethos and is committed to the founding values of the India constitution, I often worry at the statement of the state of chief minister of Gujarat and hope he does not want to do in the rest of India what he did in 2002,” Tewari said on the sidelines of an event here, referring to the 2002 Gujarat riots in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims were killed.

Modi was last week inducted into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentary board, the top decision-making body in the party, which is being largely seen as a a precursor to his being formally nominated its prime ministerial candidate. Addressing a function in Gandhinagar, Modi had said: “Log kah rahe hain Narendra Modi ne Gujarat ka karz chuka diya hai ab Hindustan ka karz chukane ko kah rahe hain (People are saying that I have repaid the debt of Gujarat and they are now asking me to repay the debt owed to India).”

Taking another swipe at the Gujarat chief minister, Tewari wondered at “the obsession of some people with US visas”. The US has said that Modi, who was denied a US visa for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, was welcome to apply though there has been no change in the US administration’s stand on a visa for him.

Following the visit of a US congressional delegation to Gujarat last week, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Thursday in Washington: “With regard to Mr. Modi, our lines have not changed here. He is welcome to apply.” “All visa decisions are made on a case by case basis, and I’m not going to prejudge it here,” the spokesperson added.



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Death penalty for 3 cops, life term for 5 in Gonda fake encounter case (Apr 5, 2013, IBN)

Death sentence was awarded to three policemen and life term was doled out to five others by a special CBI court in the 31-year-old fake encounter case in Gonda district, which led to the death of 13 persons, including the Deputy Superintendent of Police. Special CBI judge Rajendra Singh awarded death sentence to the then SHO, Kaudia RB Saroj, head constable Ram Nayak and constable Ram Kara,n holding them responsible for hatching the conspiracy of murder.

Those who have been awarded life sentence include the then PAC commandant Ramakant Dixit, sub-inspectors Naseem Ahmad, Mangala Singh, Parvez Hussain and Rajendra Prasad Singh. The court had on March 29 passed the judgement convicting eight policemen and had fixed April 5 to pronounce the quantum of punishment. Deputy SP and circle officer KP Singh and 12 other people were killed in the fake encounter in Madhopur village in March, 1982.

Police initially claimed that Singh was killed by criminals, but his wife Vibha Singh suspected foul play and moved the Supreme Court, which ordered a CBI inquiry. The CBI filed chargesheet against 19 policemen of which 10 died during the trial. Later, one policeman Prem Singh was acquitted of the charges. Manoj Shukla, a victim, was quoted as saying, “My father died in that fake encounter. I am very happy with the decision.”



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Hindutva activists force authorities to stop construction of mosque in Udupi (Apr 6, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Hindutva activists stalled the construction of a mosque that had completed all legal formalities, in the village of of Gangolli in Udupi, Karnataka. Madrasa Misbah ul uloom is an Islamic seminary imparting education for the past 35 years in the village. Due to increased space requirement, the Madrasa sought to construct a mosque, for which, according to the Madrasa board, all legal formalities were complete.

Moulana Abdul Basit Nadwi, the Madrasa Secretary told reporters, that the construction was also approved by the district authorities after inspecting the proposed site. But the Gangolli Gram Panchayat, under pressure from Hindutva activists, has repeatedly tried to stop the construction, in violation of the rights granted to citizens of India, to follow any religion and to construct places of worship in country, irrespective of caste and creed. Gangolli according to many is the most communally sensitive area in Udupi, and Hidutva activists have for years tried to instigate religious hatred among communities.

On Tuesday April 2, members of Hindu Jagaran Vedike staged a massive protest in front of the office of Gangolli Gram Panchayat, against the construction of Mosque. They also threatened full scale communal violence, if authorities did not stop what they refer to as the, ‘illegal construction of Mosque’. The administration board of the Masjid has decided to go to the High court for the resolution of the issue.



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Minorities panel seek action against police over arrest of WB (Apr 5, 2013, IBN)

Maharashtra Minorities Commission today sought action against a Vasai police officer for wrongly arresting 26 persons hailing from West Bengal on the charge of being illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The arrests were made from a construction site in neighbouring Vasai last December, Commission chairman Munaf Hakim said.

Two of the arrested had told police that other 24 were Bangladeshis, but police did not check documents like identity cards and voters list, he said. Instead, police tore up the documents offered by the accused, he alleged. The court acquitted them on April 3 after they submitted relevant documents, he said.

The concerned police inspector should be suspended for dereliction of duty, he said, in a letter to Home Minister R R Patil. The Commission looked into the matter after Union Minister Tariq Anwar pointed out that those arrested were from MP Abdul Manna’s constituency in West Bengal, he said.



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Why blame Muslim community for all bomb blasts, Katju asks media (Apr 8, 2013, The Hindu))

Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju on Sunday lashed out at media for “demonising” the entire Muslim community whenever bomb blasts occurred, and declared that he would not allow it to do such “devilish” things. Whenever bomb blasts occurred, television channels start showing, within an hour, that an e-mail or SMS had come either from the Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed or the Harkat-ul-Jihad, claiming responsibility. Justice Katju was addressing a symposium on “Reporting terror: how sensitive is the media?” organised by The Hindu here.

Pointing out that an SMS or e-mail could be sent by any mischievous person, he said when TV channels showed them and the print media published it the next day, the message they were sending was that all Muslims were terrorists and that “they have nothing to do except to throw bombs.” Terming it a “totally irresponsible behaviour” which promoted communalism, he asked: “Do you have freedom to spread communalism.” He would not allow media to do “such devilish things. You will have to have responsibility in national interest.”

Freedom was not absolute and every freedom was subjected to reasonable restriction in public interest. Unfortunately, Muslims were discriminated against in various spheres, including jobs, getting bank loans and houses on rent. “You must address these problems.” Justice Katju cited poverty, injustice and discrimination as the main causes of terrorism and called for creating a just social order. There was discrimination against minorities in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This would give rise to injustice and, therefore, to terrorism. Terrorism could not be eliminated until poverty and discrimination were abolished.

He said the British decided the policy of divide and rule after the 1857 Mutiny and made Hindus and Muslims fight against each other. This poison was injected year after year until it resulted in a fake partition. He described Pakistan as a “fake” country and expressed the hope that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would be re-united in 20 years.

The event was moderated by the Editor of The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan, and Nalsar University Vice-Chancellor Faizan Mustafa, Cyberabad Police Commissioner Dwaraka Tirumala Rao and civil liberties leader G. Haragopal were the panel members. They focused on the trends in media, the electronic media in particular, on reporting terror-related incidents. The panel members called for caution and restraint while reporting such incidents, as there were concerns that over-reporting of crime was in a way serving the purpose of the perpetrators. They wanted the media to ensure that it was not used as a propaganda tool by extremists whose aim was to strike terror in the minds of people.



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Activist seeks info on terror camps, MHA provides Shinde’s clarification (Apr 5, 2013, Times of India )

In what could be described as a double whammy for the Congress, after Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde made a U-turn on his comments on Hindu terrorism, the ministry of home affairs did not provide information about terror camps being operated by theRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party, when asked under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The ministry, instead, provided the copy of Shinde’s clarification and said the “home minister has issued a clarification on February 20, clarifying the position.”

The political furore over Shinde’s comment on BJP and RSS conducting terror camps, though died down after the minister tendered an apology, caused embarrassment to the government. In an RTI response, the ministry denied information. The questions could be irrelevant since the minister has already apologised for his comment.

Shinde had said, during Congress’ Jaipur conclave, in January, “We have got an investigation report that be it the RSS or BJP, their training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism.” He later clarified that he meant saffron and not Hindu terrorism. The comment was strong enough to leave BJP livid, which demanded that the minister either apologise or be sacked. Shinde later backpedalled and retracted his statement by issuing a clarification and also regretting his statement.

In January, activist Urvashi Sharma had sought certified copies of all records available with the government based on which the home minister had accused RSS and BJP of conducting terror training camps and promoting “Hindu terrorism”, from the PMO. The response which came more than two months after the application was made, said the government has no records available on any of the information sought.

The query had also sought certified copies of information on location within India and/or abroad of RSS and BJP terror training camps; certified copies of records available with the government on action taken against BJP and RSS to ban them for running terror training camps; certified copies of prevailing national/international rules/regulations/treaties/Government Orders as per which “terrorism” has been divided on the basis of religion/caste/creed/sect etc.; certified copies of list and all records available with the government on cases of infiltration and/or insurgency and case wise actions taken by government.



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Deepak Bhardwaj murder: Yoga guru arrested, prime accused escapes (Apr 5, 2013, Times of India)

In a late night swoop on the outskirts of Indore, a special team of Delhi Police crime branch arrested yoga guru Avinash Shastri in connection with the murder of high profile businessman-BSP leader Deepak Bhardwaj. Avinash Shastri, who is also a member of Bangarda gram panchayat, was arrested by a joint team of Delhi Police crime branch and the cops of Aerodrum police station area here late on Thursday night.

Avinash Shastri, 40, is believed to know the absconding prime accused in the case Swami Pratibhanand. During initial interrogation, the arrested yoga guru revealed that Swami Pratibhanand had stayed for two days recently at a ashram in Devdharam Tikri on the banks of Narmada river in Indore, but had left the place on Wednesday. Avinash gave shelter to the Swami at the ashram for two days, Aerodrum police station in-charge Akhilesh Divedi told TOI.

A special team of Delhi Police crime branch, through mobile phone surveillance, had recently traced Swami Pratibhanand’s location around Indore, after which it raided the Devdharam Tikri Ashram on Thursday night, but failed to find the absconding prime accused in the case, who had left the place a day ago. The crime branch team later found Avinash Shastri at his house (near the ashram) at a colony below Pitra Parwat and arrested him and left for New Delhi early on Friday.



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Controversial Bhagya Laxmi Mandir in Hyd is ‘unauthorized’ structure built after 1959: ASI (Apr 5, 2013, Twocircles.net)

The Archeological Survey of India, in a RTI reply, finally conceded that the controversial Bhagya Laxmi Mandir, adjacent to historical Charminar is a recently constructed ‘unauthorized’ structure. At the end of the last year, Bhagya Laxmi Mandir kept the whole Hyderabad on tenterhooks where due to its continuous illegal extensions, violent communal clashes broke out between Majlis-e-Itehadul Muslimeen and Sangh Parivar activists. This controversial Mandir issue polarized whole of Hyderabad, where even leaders from Congress party on the line of Sangh Parivar started blindly supporting temples illegal extension. Moreover, some politicians and right wing Hindu religious leaders even suggested that Bhagya Laxmi Mandir is older than 420 year old Charminar. The Mandir issue also affected the state politics where MIM parted way with its traditional ally Congress, terming its Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy ‘communal’ for facilitating Mandir extension in the protection of police force.

ASI also came under attack from heritage activists for taking mute spectator stand during the whole controversy, though Charminar comes directly under its supervision. Many people thought, ASI is going the Babri Masjid way on the whole issue. When The Hindu newspaper created sensation in Hyderabad and in the whole country, by publishing images of Charminar from 1940’s showing no existence of controversial temple structure, Right wing leaders termed those pictures bogus, and labeled The Hindu a Communist mouth piece. ASI, as always was mute and refrained from commenting on the authenticity of the images published in The Hindu. At the height of this controversy city based Heritage and civil rights activist Syed Qutubuddin Masood filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) with the ASI in December last year. Questioning ASI on the authenticity of the images published in the newspaper and its stand on the temple structure. When 30 days limitation period was expired and no reply was received, Masood had to file a complaint for delay, in the ending days of January. He finally received a reply from ASI, making public its official position.

ASI in its reply, a copy of which is with TwoCircles.net, to Masood on 17th January denied any delay in the reply, and attached a reply later dated 3-12-2012. In the reply ASI refused to give any authentication of images published in the newspapers, but provided its own three official photographs of Charminar in the span of 53 years from its archives. The 1959 photograph of Charminar provided by ASI clearly shows that there was no sign of any temple at south eastern minaret of Charimnar. In 1980 image, a structure of Mandir can be seen cropping up, in the 2003 image provided by ASI a complete temple with tarpaulin sheet can be viewed. This now ‘officially’ refutes the argument of Right wing Hindu groups that Bhagya Laxmi Mandir existed before Charminar. Based on the documents and evidence available with ASI, it termed the temple unauthorized structure, as according to ASI rules no fresh structure could be constructed near 100 meters of ASI protected monument. ASI in its reply to 5th question in RTI query clearly stated, “As per Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR) (1958), Rules 1959, AMASR Act, 2010 (amendment and validation) the construction of temple in the south eastern minaret of Charminar has considered by Archeological Survey of India as unauthorized structure.”

Speaking to TCN, SQ Masood said he decided to file this RTI in the backdrop of rhetoric from communal politicians and religious leaders that Bhagya Laxmi Mandir is older than Charminar when The Hindu took that bold step and published vintage images of Charminar without any bit of mandir near to the historical monument. Masood said his basic aim behind filing this RTI was to take the official stand of the ASI on the images published in The Hindu and to clarify its continuous ambiguous position on the disputed structure. Masood though got the reply from ASI making clear its position on controversial temple, but he still feels ASI tried to bury its irresponsible behavior where it ran away when historical Charminar needed it the most. In the 4th question asking whether ASI received any representations or complains on this issue, ASI according to Masood made a blatant lie and denied receiving any representation, while the fact is many heritage protection organizations and individuals gave representations to ASI pleading their immediate intervention in the issue.

Masood said that as ASI has given permission to inspect it files regarding Charminar, he will take a delegation of heritage activists to the office to scrutinize more files and documents regarding the official history of Charminar and the disputed structure of Bhagya Laxmi Mandir. Masood added, given the sensitivity of the issue, he doesn’t want to make public his RTI query, fearing another round of communal hate mongering on the controversial structure. But recently his RTI query was leaked in the media, and got wide press coverage in Hyderabad. Masood hopes his RTI query help the cause of protecting a heritage monument, rather than getting used into the hands of communal politicians. It should be mentioned here that TCN has been highlighting the whole issue since November, when the controversy began to take political colours, much before The Hindu published the picture in December, on the front page.



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Police constable arrested for raping and threatening a rape victim (Apr 8, 2013, IBN)

Once again a policeman in Uttar Pradesh has been accused of rape, dealing another massive blow to the already poor law and order in the state. A policemen Veer Singh has been arrested for allegedly raping and threatening a women in Raniganj police station on Sunday. Veer Singh allegedly assaulted the woman, who had come to file a rape complaint, after promising to help her.

The victim alleges in her complaint that she had gone to Raniganj police station to lodge a complaint against another man who had been raping her for the last three years after promising to marry her. The woman claimed that when she asked the accused to marry her, he threatened her and forced her to leave his house. When she tried to lodge a rape complaint, the accused policeman threatened and raped her instead of helping her.

She also alleged that accused Veer Singh also beat her up and forced her to flee from the police station. Next morning when some lawyers saw her outside the district court, they complaint to the senior officials. The woman also lodged a complaint against the accused policemen who has been arrested.



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Opinions and Editorials

Why memories of Gujarat 2002 stay – By Ajaz Ashraf (Apr 2, 2013, The Hindu)

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh’s decision to accord a prominent role to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is presumably based on the belief that the diverse Indian electorate would forgive him for the communal mayhem of 2002, as it often has the Congress for the riots under its rule. This can be presumed from the comments Mr. Singh made at a function in Delhi in early February. In a recriminatory tone, he had then asked, “Our opposition parties allege that BJP is the party which creates enmity between Hindus and Muslims. Did riots not take place during Congress rule?” Not just the votaries and apologists of the BJP but even ideologically neutral individuals often echo the sentiments Mr. Singh expressed. From Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) in 1961 to Bharatpur (Rajasthan) in 2012, the Congress has palpably failed to control communal hotheads from running amok periodically. Yet the party hasn’t been tagged communal, and still garners a substantial chunk of the minority as well as secular votes. What explains the dichotomy in the public response to the riots under the BJP rule as compared to those under the Congress governments?

For one, the phenomenon of communal riot is an elemental aspect of the Sangh Parivar’s ideology, an extreme manifestation of its politics which is predicated on articulating and redressing the grievances of Hindus, real or imagined, the provenance of which lies either in the medieval past or in post-Independence public policies the saffron brigade perceives as unjustifiably favouring the minorities. This worldview pits the Hindus against the minorities, particularly the Muslims, until such time the inexhaustible list of grievances is addressed. The politics emanating from this worldview consequently spawns an ambience of tension among communities, reduced or heightened depending on the exigencies of circumstances but never allowed to dissipate. In other words, the inter-community tension, signifying the abnormal in politics, has no possibility of closure in the immediate future. It is designed to become our daily state of existence. The tension is stoked at pan-India, State and district levels. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement sought to meld the Hindus, with all their class, caste, linguistic and regional divides, into a monolith, through a demand asking Muslims to voluntarily relinquish their custody of the Babri Masjid. Of similar nature are the demands for relocating mosques abutting the Krishna and Shiv temples in Mathura and Varanasi. These symbols of pan-India Hindu mobilisation are augmented through the manufacturing of disputes over places of worship of local significance. Into this category fall the protracted disputes over the Bhagyalakshmi temple at the base of the Charminar in Hyderabad, the Baba Budangiri-Guru Dattatreya shrine in Karnataka, and the Bhojshala complex in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh.

In addition, there are hundreds of places of worship and graveyards in mofussil towns whose ownerships are contended between Hindus and Muslims. No doubt, some of these disputes date back decades but, over the years, myriad groups comprising the Sangh Parivar have taken over the leadership of these ‘little battles of liberation’. For variety, Christian priests are attacked and churches vandalised on the charges of converting Hindus to Christianity. In this culture of inter-community tension, alternatively fanned and allowed to simmer, the riot is the logical culmination of an insidious process. It is akin to a person experiencing a nervous breakdown after suffering acute mental agony for months; it is similar to living life on the edge, uncertain though you are about the precise moment of the inevitable fall off the precipice. Indeed, communal tension in perpetuity is less traumatic only in degrees to an outbreak of a riot. The sheer salience of tension-riot in the politics of BJP is precisely why a localised inter-community conflict under its rule acquires a resonance countrywide. It is perceived as illustrative of the fate awaiting the minorities in an India in which the BJP exercises untrammeled power. The 2002 riot of Gujarat was horrifying not only because of its barbarity but also because it was viewed to have been ideologically driven and, therefore, bound to be replicated elsewhere.

By contrast, the riots under the Congress rule, even the ones its activists spearhead, are instrumental rather than ideological. Barring the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, the riots under the Congress rarely spill beyond a parliamentary constituency or two. The motive behind such mayhem is usually a local Congressman wanting to win an election from a constituency; a riot or communal tension rarely becomes a tool for political mobilisation countrywide, again, the 1984 riots being the exception. Though cynical, the breakdown in inter-community relationship is almost always followed by attempts to restore the earlier social harmony. No doubt, the Congress was justifiably implicated in the 1984 riots. It symbolically atoned for its guilt by appointing Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, and he, on August 12, 2005, apologised not only to the Sikh community in Parliament, but also to the entire nation “because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood in our Constitution”.

More significantly, the Congress is forgiven because the riots under it are often (not always, though) the handiwork of organisations owing allegiance or belonging to the Sangh Parivar. It’s a conclusion several commissions of inquiry appointed to probe riots have reached. There are just too many to be quoted. But sample what the Joseph Vithayathil Commission on the Tellicherry riots of 1971 said. It traced the origin of communal tension in the town to the RSS’s decision to establish its units there. In an incident the rioters accosted one Muhammad and offered him the following choice, “If you want to save your life you should go round the house three times repeating the words, ‘Rama, Rama’.” The commission noted, “Muhammad did that. But you cannot expect the 70 million Muslims of India to do that as a condition for maintaining communal harmony in the country”. More than 40 years after Tellicherry, tension-riot remains the Sangh Parivar’s defining strategy of achieving its ideological goal of turning India Hindu. This is why we remember the riots under the BJP and not those under the Congress, which too has been responsible for the spilling of blood and untold misery.



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Modi-fying the Lokayukta – Editorial (Apr 8, 2013, The Hindu)

Changes in law, especially those reformative in intent, are warranted from time to time. However, given the timing and context in which it has taken place, the recent enactment in Gujarat creating a Lokayukta Commission in place of a single-member body is bound to be seen as a colourable exercise of power. The decision to expand it into a multi-member body, consisting of a Lokayukta and two judicial and two administrative members, is ostensibly aimed at strengthening the mechanism to curb corruption among public functionaries. However, the thinly-hidden objective seems to be to ensure that Chief Minister Narendra Modi has his way. He was clearly unhappy with the consultation process involving the Chief Justice on who should be the next Lokayukta.

The legislation has come two months after the Supreme Court upheld the appointment of Justice R.A. Mehta for the post, rejecting the Modi government’s challenge to the legality of the Governor making the appointment based on the Chief Justice’s opinion. The new law, which does not dislodge Mr. Mehta, does away with the role of the Chief Justice and Governor in future appointments, and replaces the consultation process with a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister. This has naturally caused concern among opposition parties.

The composition of the six-member selection panel in the Lokayukta Commission Act is loaded in favour of the government. It comprises four members who could be identified with the government of the day: the Chief Minister, a minister appointed by him, the Assembly Speaker and the vigilance commissioner. The other two are the Leader of the Opposition and a judge of the High Court to be nominated by the Chief Justice in consultation with five senior judges of the High Court. Gujarat has argued that its mechanism is similar to what the Centre has proposed in its draft Lokpal Bill.

However, the Lokpal Bill talks of including an eminent jurist and a well-known public figure as government nominees. In the Gujarat model, only the opposition leader and the lone judge are independent members. Further, provisions envisaging a jail term for disclosure of identities or evidence in the media and vesting the Council of Ministers with the power to reject Lokayukta reports against ministers or exclude some categories of public functionaries from investigation are truly contentious. The inevitable conclusion is that anti-corruption legislation is still mired in expediency, and the political class is nowhere near adopting the sort of effective and credible mechanism to combat corruption that the people want.



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Six Cases Of Encounters In Manipur Not Genuine: Panel To SC – By Tehelka Bureau (Apr 4, 2013, Tehelka)

The Supreme Court-mandated commission sent to Manipur three months ago to investigate six fake encounter cases presented its report to the court on the morning of April 4. A bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai examined the committee’s report, which said none of the six cases qualify as encounters and that they are fake. None of the victims, which include a 12-year-old boy, were found to have been involved in militant activities or to have a criminal record.

The Extrajudicial Execution Victim Families’ Association (AAVFAM) and Human Rights Alert, two organisations based in Manipur, submitted the petition for the investigation in September 2012. They submitted a list of 1528 extrajudicial killings. In its investigation, the Commission was forced to “address the larger question of the role of the State Police”.

“Although the investigation is not aimed directly at AFSPA, this report has the chance of at least challenging it,” says Babloo Loitongbam, from Human Rights Alert. It is about destabilising the feeling of impunity of the armed forces. Nina, a representative from the EEVFAM was present for the cross-examinations. She says that “when the perpetrators were called for the cross-examinations, we felt satisfied that those people who thought no one could touch them had to come forward. We hope that the Supreme Court will help sort out this problem of extra-judicial killing.” Fake encounter cases are not legally protected by the AFSPA. All the more so because AFSPA only pertains to areas declared as disturbed under the Disturbed Areas Act, and many of the police officers cross-examined did not even know which areas fell under that category.

Demonstrating that it is possible to get justice through the democratic system is a much-needed step to restore faith to those who have been unjustly treated. The investigation took place within the constitutional framework, and Loitongbam says, “We are inspired by the transparent process this investigation has been, and to see State and Central governments, as well as petitioners working together. We are extremely hopeful that this report will open up a window of hope and opportunity”. The decision is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which should pass directions on the basis of the panel’s report on 9 April.

“Till now there has been no legal action (against the Armed Forces),” says Meera Ahmad, from Jan Sangharsh Manch, who has researched fake encounter cases in Gujarat and Manipur. “In the submission by the petitioners they say that the attacks on the armed forces have substantially decreased. But armed forces killing civilians has not come down. There is a need for a very strong assessment.” Hopefully this report will not reach the same end as the Jeevan Reddy report in 2005.



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Unequal justice breeds communalism and terrorism – By Rajdeep Sardesai (Apr 5, 2013, IBN)

“Justice”, the new rallying cry on the streets and in the studios, can be awfully selective at times. The brutal gangrape of a Delhi girl in December led to an avalanche of protests and demands that the culprits be hanged immediately. On the other hand, sexual crimes against women in interior Chattisgarh attract scant attention. Afzal Guru’s hanging becomes a contentious political battle, even as faceless prisoners remain on death row for years. Now, the Supreme Court verdict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case has become more about a film star’s saga rather than about a dispassionate analysis of the judgment. The reactions to the Mumbai 93 judgment are typical of how ‘justice’ is now perceived in the public arena. Veering between a blood-thirsty desire for ‘revenge’ for the lives of those who died and the several hundred who were injured and an unbridled sympathy for those who are projected as ‘victims’ of circumstances. The fact is neither there is a need for any chest-thumping hysteria nor there is a cause for teary emotionalism.

The real crux of the 93 judgment lies in the acknowledgement that even 20 years after the first, and worst, terror attack of its kind in this country, we have not been able to prosecute the ‘masterminds’: Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon and their benefactors in Pakistan. A case that was cracked within days of the blasts – the terrorists abandoned a car at Worli that was tracked down to the Memons – remains incomplete because the key players have remained out of reach of the law. What closure can there be for the victims when the system knows where Dawood lives and is aware of his movements but cannot touch him, or, as has been speculated, has made little real effort to ‘take him out’? The others, as the court says, were ‘pawns’ in a larger conspiracy. Even the exact role of Yakub Memon, the one person who has been given the death sentence, remains debatable within security agencies. What is clear is that while the chartered accountant who chose to return to India is now on death row, his brother Tiger Memon who planned the conspiracy remains a valued ‘guest’ of Pakistan’s ISI.

And yet, it is Dutt who occupies the mindspace. Poor ‘littlecc Sanju Baba (he was 34 when the terror attack took place) deserves pardon on humanitarian grounds, we are told. Pardon because he is a ‘reformed’ citizen who has spread ‘Gandhigiri’ and has already served 18 months in prison. But what then of a Zebunissa Qazi, a 70-year-old Muslim woman, who was convicted under TADA even while Dutt was held guilty under the Arms Act even though the nature of their involvement appears identical? In fact, Zebunissa had made a strong case that she was unaware of the arms consignment being kept in her house even while Dutt had confessed to taking the weapons in ‘self-defence’. Or are we to believe that an appeal for pardon for a celebrity carries weight which an ailing, anonymous woman can never match? And what of the thousands of undertrials who languish in jails without even a fair hearing simply because they don’t have self-appointed guardians of justice to take up their case?

And while we focus on the 93 blasts judgment, what of the Mumbai riots of 1992-93 that preceded the terror attack? As the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission, appointed to inquire into the Mumbai riots, made amply clear, the terror attack of March 1993 could not be seen without reference to the violence that had taken place just weeks before. The commission noted, “the blasts seem to be a reaction to ‘the totality of events’ at Ayodhya and in Mumbai in December 1992 and January 1993.” The commission adds: “There is no doubt that the major role in the blasts conspiracy was played by Muslims.” On the other hand, the commission says: ” the riots were brought to fever pitch by communally inciting propaganda unleashed by Hindu communal organisations and writings in newspapers like Saamna (the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece) and Navakal. It was taken over by Shiv Sena and its leaders, who continued to whip up communal frenzy through the writings of and directives issued by Bal Thackeray.” The blasts then were, as the judge emphasised, “a Muslim conspiracy”; the riots, especially in the second phase of January 93, were spearheaded by the Shiv Sena. Officially, 257 people, mainly Hindus, died in the terror attack; 900 people, mainly Muslims, died in the rioting. True justice would mean that the blast conspirators and the riot leaders would be treated equally. And yet, the inconvenient truth is that the two instances of mass killing have been treated very differently.

Within two years of the Mumbai violence, the BJP-Shiv Sena government came to power in Maharashtra for the first time by claiming to be ‘protectors’ of the majority community. Far from being questioned for inciting rioting, Thackeray became the ‘remote control’ of the new government. The regime virtually threw the Srikrishna report into the Arabian Sea by describing it as one-sided and biased. The police officers, who were named in the riots report, were either let off and, in some instances, even promoted. The Congress-NCP government, which came to power in 1999, also chose not to act on the inquiry report. None of the riot cases were pursued with any vigour and in only five of them, there have been convictions. The only Shiv Sena leader of any significance who was convicted was its former MP, Madhukar Sarpotdar, for making inflammatory speeches. He was sentenced to one year in jail but was immediately granted bail on a surety of just Rs 15,000. Is it any wonder then that when a criminal justice system is seen to be so transparently unequal, we remain trapped in a vicious cycle of communalism and terrorism?



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Why Is Matrilineal Meghalaya Indifferent Towards Rape Victims? – By Ratnadip Choudhury (Mar 30, 2013, Tehelka)

On 13 December last year, a 18-year-old girl was gangraped by 16 boys in William Nagar, the headquarters of the East Garo Hills district in Meghalaya. After TEHELKA reported on the incident, activists allege that pressure is mounting on the victim’s family to withdraw the case. In the article (Gangraped by 16 Men. Yet No Outrage in the Hills, Issue 6, Volume 10) TEHELKA had reported that the victim’s parents were very apprehensive about her future and their apprehension came true, revealing the ugly side of the social prejudice in Meghalaya. The victim who was moved to Tura, the main town of Garo hills, only to be denied admission by school and private girls’ hostel, and back home in William Nagar people tried to photograph her every time she stepped out of her village. It’s over three months since the incident happened, and Meghalaya Commission for Women (MCW) has been handling her case in a sluggish manner. Even questions have been raised on the state government’s dealing of the case as one of the accused is a relative of Meghalaya Social Welfare minister Deborah Marak.

“In her village, the relatives and family members had been coming to their house and trying to influence them. We are told that they even took the girl’s picture. Thus the parents moved the girl to Tura where she has been denied admission. We are told that the women commission has arranged for a safe stay for her, but her parents were denied to meet her on 26 March. What we don’t understand is what is so secretive about it that even the parents are not being allowed to meet her,” says Agnes Kharshaiing of Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), a NGO based in Shillong that has been working for women’s rights in Meghalaya. “The victim’s family is very poor. They are running from pillar to post for the safety of their child as well as to get justice. We are told that she has been made to sign a paper where she agreed that she is happy in the way state women commission has handled the case and that she does not want to talk to media and even activists. We feel the family is under pressure and it is important that her statement is recorded in front of a magistrate as well,” adds Jaynie N Sangma of the Peoples’ Movement for Democratic Rights.

Meghalaya State Commission for Women (MSCW) had sprung into action only after the incident was highlighted by the media. However, MSCW chairperson Theilin Phanbuh defended the commission’s late response, saying that, “We have taken the case very seriously. We are told that a school has agreed to admit her, she is safe and her parents are meeting her. This is not for the first time such crime has happened and we have always taken up the case to the best of our ability.” Phanbuh informed that the commission will constitute a fact finding committee to look into the allegations that the victim’s family is being pressurised. The police has filed a chargesheet against the 16 accused, and the case will now be heard in a newly constituted fast track court in Tura. Meanwhile, Social Welfare Minister Deborah Marak met with state Home Minister Roshan Warjri to discuss on the developments in the case and both the ministers told the media that justice will be done to the victim.

Contrary to the popular belief that women have greater control over their lives in matrilineal societies such as in Meghalaya, the condition of women seems to be no different here from the rest of the country. In the past decade, Meghalaya has seen over 800 rape cases, 500 of which are still pending in various courts. In fact, there was a six-fold rise in cases of rape registered annually in the state between 2001 (26 cases) and 2010 (149 cases). In a state that boasts of women’s empowerment – where women inherit property and are seen at the forefront of domestic and public life – 830 rape cases between 2002 and 2012 should have shaken the conscience of the public authorities and forced them to act. Instead, the conviction rate remains awfully low and even compensation is hardly provided to the victims and their families. There are only three fast track courts dealing with rape cases – one each in the Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills and East Khasi Hills districts. In the Garo Hills alone, which does not have a fast track court, 23 rape cases, including two gangrape cases, have been pending for over a decade.

“Matriarchal society is a myth. Crimes against women in Meghalaya has been happening for a long time. Now media is proactive, so a lot of cases are being reported. But the lack of awareness about the sensitivity related to a rape case amongst common people, and even authorities, remains a great cause of concern. The society needs to take action and question the government, something that is not happening apart from activists fighting for the cause,” says Particia Mukhim, Editor of The Shillong Times.



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Disempowered Dalits – By S. Dorairaj (Apr 6, 2013, Frontline)

“My hands are tied. I have not been allowed to discharge my democratic duties. A couple of ward members belonging to the dominant caste hurled verbal abuses at me. I left the village as I faced an imminent threat to my life. I have returned [on March 19], ending my 10-day-long self-imposed exile, following assurances given by the local police and the revenue authorities. But the problem is far from over as casteists, who want to usurp my powers and pose a threat to my life, are yet to be booked. Yet, there is no question of buckling under pressure,” S. Palraj, elected president of the Nakkalamuthanpatti village panchayat in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, said. The Dalit panchayat president’s fears cannot be dismissed as unfounded as his predecessor, Jakkaiyan, was murdered on November 22, 2006, for choosing to ignore the diktats of persons belonging to the dominant caste in running the local administration, Dalit organisations point out. Palraj was allegedly threatened that he would meet the same fate if he tried to function independently.

Recalling the circumstances that forced him to leave the village, Palraj said: “I have not been allowed to occupy my seat in the panchayat office. At one stage, two upper-caste members asked me not to enter the office premises. They wanted me to collect a certain amount for my daily expenses and leave the job of running the panchayat to them. They compelled me to sign the office records maintained by them. I was verbally abused and threatened with dire consequences at a meeting on March 7 in the presence of the Block Development Officer [BDO]. Though the BDO pulled them up for unseemly behaviour, they continued with their intimidation. As things came to a head, I decided to leave the village.” Palraj has submitted petitions to the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police seeking their intervention. Fortunately, in this case, the vice-president of the panchayat, despite being a member of the dominant Naicker community, has not joined the casteists.

Collector C. Samayamoorthy told Frontline that the police were looking into the issue and that Palraj would be given protection if it was found necessary. The issue was raised by him suo motu at the routine law-and-order meeting, the Collector said, adding that it was the duty of the district administration to ensure the protection of elected representatives. The local police have registered a first information report under Sections 341, 294 (b) and 506 (ii) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (1) (X) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Palraj is one of the 3,136 Dalit panchayat presidents elected in the local bodies elections held in the State in October 2011. Many others like him face different forms of caste-based discrimination. A sizable number of them have become victims of manipulative tactics adopted by dominant caste groups who want to retain their hold on governance at the grass-roots level. The onslaught of casteists, particularly in areas that witnessed the worst caste violence in the southern districts of the State in the mid-1990s with Dalits bearing the brunt of the attacks, has reached unbearable levels.

Organisations such as the Tamil Nadu Dalit Panchayat Presidents’ Forum and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Madurai-based Evidence have repeatedly urged the State government to take action against the ward members and clerks, mostly belonging to the upper castes, who prevent Dalit panchayat presidents from delivering their mandate. They have also called for steps to provide adequate security to those panchayat chiefs who have been targeted by casteist forces. Official sources claim that the enactment of the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, close on the heels of the enactment of the 73rd amendment to the Constitution, 1992, “added a new dimension to the existence of local self-governance” and provided scope, among other things, for the reservation of seats in local bodies for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their populations and also posts of chairpersons of panchayati raj institutions for them on a rotation basis.

However, representatives of NGOs and Dalit organisations point out the shabby treatment meted out to the elected panchayat presidents, indicating that there is a long way to go in achieving empowerment of the oppressed sections. Even at the time of enacting the State Panchayats Act, there were criticisms that the Bill was rushed through in the Assembly without detailed discussions. …



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